What's Up


It’s Wednesday, so that usually means it’s time for my Grade 7, MYP 2's, What’s Up. Over the years, it has evolved to be referred to as Whazzzzz’s Up or S’Up or even the gesture of a W rising. I am good to roll with any version of the title of assignment that connects my students to the world in a meanigful way because this is a BOB that packs a punch and scaffolds over the entire school year in three revisits, making it a tri-BOB. Thanks to student feedback, I already know how to improve it for next year.

The What’s Up begins with students selecting an article of interest. This is a key step in personalizing the experience in terms of both interest and skill. Many students learned from positive or negative experience why that is a crucial move. The more they enjoy the topic, the more they enjoy the project. The other key aspect in their choice is the article itself. It is important that they can make a good choice of text for themselves. That is why I provide links to kid-friendly news through this great site: http://theconnectedclassroom.wikispaces.com/News. Selecting the best fit article requires a sense of what interests the students as well as their reading skills.

Then, students have to annotate their chosen article. Annotations are the best thing to see the invisible: thinking. I learned many years ago from Cris Tovani and others that annotating texts provides critical evidence of reading comprehension. When students annotate their news articles, I can see their questions, read their conclusions and see how they respond. It is a great way to track critical thinking. I have a students who is so conversational in his annotations, I literally know his every wondering and response. Annotations are a helpful indicator of understanding as well as analysis. (Below is exemplary annotating by one of my students)

After the article has been read and annotated, the students go back and highlight key points. I teach them the 5 W’s and an H, but I also teach them the key word and GIST strategies. The highlighting helps them isolate the most important points and keep out extraneous information. It also gives them systematic steps in developing the summary and another way, after the annotations, for any gaps to show through. Once the summary is written, the response is next.

Students respond to the article with a variety of prompts. They have to explain why they chose the article. Sometimes, they chose it because they have heard it mentioned a lot and want to know more. Other times, it is because of their interest. When the answer is “, …because it was the shorted article I could find,” we have a point of conversation (after I compliment them on their honesty). Next, they have to communicate how the issue relates to any one of your units of inquiry. This helps to develop thinking skills and encourages them to make connections.

Lastly, the students have to ask questions. This helps them extend their thinking beyond the assignment and consider other ramifications or implications of the issue, consider biases, consider missing voices in the article and much more. There is a Q chart they can use to help them develop their questioning skills because that is key to developing critical thinking.

After the presentations are done, the students provide written feedback on the assignment, Then, I introduce What’s Up 2. This year, there were two additions in their second revisit of What's Up: to add and justify a visual and to recognize any form of bias: national, racial gender, political etc. I taught 3 explicit lessons on bias as the students made their transition to the new outline and selected their presentation dates.

Reflection is essential to all learning, and it is critical to the improvement of my work. Whether or not my students submit written reflections will depend on how much writing they have going on at the time. This time, the students gave me oral feedback on the What’s Up 2, which I scribed. The best part of this was that they build on each other’s feedback.

Ethan P I like the assignment overall. I like having the visual which makes it better than What’s Up 1- It makes people more engaged and more focused. I definitely think that having a visual is an essential aspect from the beginning.

Yael: I really liked this project. It’s really cool. For What’s Up 1, there should be a mandatory visual, What’s Up 2 make your own.

Ashley: I agree with the previous feedback, we should have a visual from the start.

Jadyn- As a viewer, it is easier when there is a visual. I agree that we should have to make our own visual- ya it’s more work but it means more to making it but it means more because you are thinking about more.

Ethan C- Justifying a video is good- you can just look something up and find it in 30 seconds, but that doesn’t show your learning. Finding the right one and explaining the process is a good idea.

I listened, so I have already evolved the outline for next year’s What’s Up tri-BOB. I just introduced What’s Up #3. Though it is more complicated than last year, the students have been well prepared through a careful scaffold of explicit instruction and deep learning through the first 2 iterations of this tri-BOB. This time, they have to read two articles on the same issue or event. They then must select a photograph of the event that they feel best reflects the issue and any biases that were raised. They will be leading the analysis of the text through the 4 stages of decoding a photograph that we have been doing weekly through Friday Photo. They are well versed in the describing, analysing, interpreting and evaluating photographs, but now they have to own it.

What's Up is now in the middle of my entire Middle School current events/news-related offering. Teaching Individuals and Societies in Grade 6-8, MYP 1, 2 and 3, has allowed me to create a trifecta of Tri-BOBs. It begins with What's News in Grade 6, then evolves to What's Up in Grade 7 with a final twist into the collaborative News n'Schmooze in Grade 8. I am so proud to have this spiralling offering for each grade level to help build skill, autonomy and community in minimal class time.


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